Today is International Women’s Day, a day where we celebrate the achievements of women across the world, and call for gender equality.

While there’s undoubtedly a lot of things that need to change to make workplaces genuinely equal for both genders (we’re talking about you gender pay gap, maternity leave and the depressingly low number of women in senior roles) today we decided to celebrate office girl squads.

Women in tech have been busy beating back gender stereotypes for flippin’ ages, so we caught up with Ana-Rosa from O2. Not only is she a woman suceeding in a digital role (Compliance Manager Interactive Services, to be exact) she’s also part of the O2 Women’s Network!

We asked Ana-Rosa about the importance of celebrating women who are collaborating at work, lifting each other up and celebrating each others’ successes and how we can start our very own women’s networks. Take a look…

Hi Ana-Rosa! Can you tell us a little bit about the Women’s Network at O2 and how you get involved?

“The women’s network is a large group of people who want to work on initiatives to inspire and empower individuals within O2 to try and encourage an equal workplace for all. I work on the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) initiative within the network, specifically helping to coordinate a step into STEM mentoring programme run by GirlsTalkLondon.”

What do you think are the biggest challenges faced by women in tech right now?

“The biggest challenge is that tech is just not considered to be a career that women would go into! This is partly because of the low representation of women higher up in companies. One of the main ways to overcome this is to encourage and inspire younger generations, and work on how to keep women in these jobs throughout their careers. Sometimes this can be as simple as providing women with the tools to have the confidence to go for those jobs that might not seem attainable in the first place.”

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What’s been the best thing that the Women’s Network has ever done at O2?

“As well as having inspirational speakers and coaching, the best thing for me has been the step into STEM programme. As part of the programme, we invited young people to a work experience day at O2′s headquarters in Slough. It was so great to see their enthusiasm for STEM at the end of the day! Plus, seeing them graduate from the programme at the end of the seven months and watching them grow over that time was incredible!”

Would you encourage other people to form women’s networks in their workplace if they don’t have them already?

“Yes, absolutely. I’ve been part of two different women’s networks and although they were both very different, they were both so great to be a part of. As well as being able to be part of really inspiring events (like running Race for Life together as a network) a network is a great way to meet new friends and people within your company that you wouldn’t normally meet.”

Do you have any advice for young women thinking about setting up their own women’s network? How do you even get started?!

“Think about whether there are any gaps in your company that a women’s network would fill. Think about the sort of event and themes you would want to focus on. Get inspiration from other women’s networks and organisations that deal with women’s network like the IWE. Get senior management sponsorship – this will help you to get started!”

Who is a woman in tech that really inspires you?

“Julie Sadler, Head of IT Portfolio Management, Engagement & Delivery at O2. I’ve worked with her on the step into STEM mentoring programme and despite being so busy and having done so well in O2 she always has the time to talk to me and help with the things that need to be done.”

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, what are three small things anyone could do today to make work a more gender equal environment?

“The most important things are to have confidence, self belief and self awareness to apply for jobs that might not seem attainable because men normally have those jobs or careers.”

Do you have a message for any young women facing sexism in the workplace?

“Find out whether there are any networks in  your company that can help you in any way. Don’t doubt yourself, and your ability to do your job.”

 Liked this? Check out more inspiring women this International Women’s Day…

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